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Preventing or Improving Dementia

Updated: Jan 15

We’ve often been told that exercise is good for our health, specifically for the body. But is exercise specifically good for your brain?


Physical inactivity ranks as the fourth major risk factor for death globally and has been recognized as a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Successfully promoting increased physical activity, by engaging in regular aerobic exercise, has the potential to reduce age-associated disease.


Increasing age is strongly associated with the development of dementia, particularly from dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and other neurodegenerative causes. Dementia is characterized by significant cognitive decline to the point where independence in everyday activities becomes affected. At autopsy, most of those with dementia will have evidence of vascular pathologies.


In a study published September 2023 in the journal, European Geriatric Medicine, researchers found physical activity may be the primary prevention of dementia. The panel, composed of scientific societies and other stakeholders, recommends their implementation based on their beneficial effects on almost all facets of health. In a much longer article entitled, Protective Effects of Exercise on Cognition and Brain Health in Older Adults, goes into great detail about the benefits of exercise and increasing the blood flow to the brain.

It is known that approximately 60% of older adults do not engage in enough physical activity and exercise to maintain or improve brain health. Is there an alternative?

External counterpulsation (ECP) is a non‐invasive circulation technique that employs sequential compression of cuffs wrapped around calves, thighs, and buttocks, which inflate and deflate during the cardiac cycle. ECP is a passive leg exercise that induces the production of nitric oxide. From the 2019 consensus of experts on the clinical application of ECP, one conclusion was that ECP can (and should) be considered for patients with Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, or other neurodegenerative diseases, including new onset of dementia.


In fact, a 2004 study of 33 patients with Parkinson’s disease showed that 87.9% had symptomatic improvement, probably due to increased cerebral blood flow. Sometimes diminished cognition is from lack of or poor-quality sleep. The same expert committee also advocated for ECP for patients with sleep disorders.



NOTE: What’s the difference between EECP and ECP?

EECP is a registered trademark of Vasomedical, Inc., Westbury, New York, one of the manufacturers of external counter pulsation equipment in the United States. EECP stands for Enhanced External Counter Pulsation. EECP and ECP are essentially synonyms.

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